Toyota warns WiFI could impair vehicle safety image

Toyota told a US House Committee that the government should not move forward with a plan to allow expanded parts of the wireless spectrum for Internet access until testing can ensure it won’t threaten auto safety advances.

John Kenney, principal research manager at the Toyota Info Technology Center in California, told the House Energy and Commerce panel overseeing technology that the Federal Communications Commission should not move forward until viable technology-sharing is demonstrated — and “if it can be proven that no harmful interference will impair the safety-of-life mission for which that spectrum is allocated.”

Kenney said, “We don’t want a mom driving a car down the road with kids in the back seat, and because she happens to be driving by a coffee shop that’s using Wi-Fi, her collision-avoidance system turns off.”

He also said regulations must ensure that kids using devices in the back seat don’t interfere with the safety system.

Representative Lee Terry, said he thinks a solution can be reached to ensure that automobiles have the bandwidth they need, while allowing WiFi to use part of the spectrum. “There is room for both,” he said, saying he was bullish on the auto technology. “I think it is going to save lives.”

Toyota warned that the U.S. could fall behind Europe in development of connected-car networks. Last year, 12 automakers announced commitments to deploy vehicle-to-vehicle communication in the European Union by 2015. The EU automakers initially will use a small section of the spectrum.

In the US, since August 2012, 10 major automakers and technology companies have been working with NHTSA’s Connected Vehicle Research Program in a pilot study of “smart vehicles” in Ann Arbor. Nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and transit buses are testing connected-vehicle technologies on 73 miles of roads in northeast Ann Arbor. In August, the planned one-year test was extended by another six months.